Category Archives: Ira Levin

Who Can You Trust?*

One of the ways authors build tension in their stories is to question a character’s trustworthiness. We all want to believe that the people we live and work with are who they seem to be. When that’s called into question, we sometimes start to question everything, and that’s very unsettling.

It is in crime fiction, too, and that unease can add much to a story. It’s got to be done carefully, or it can seem melodramatic. But if it’s done well, that unsettling feeling can build suspense.

In Agatha Christie’s Hickory, Dickory Dock, Hercule Poirot is asked to solve the mystery of a puzzling series of events that have been taking place at a hostel for students. On the surface, all of the people who live there seem to be decent, hard-working young people. But someone’s been stealing odd things, and there are other strange events, too. One evening, one of the students, Celia Austin, confesses that she is responsible for several of the thefts, and it’s believed that the matter is settled. But the next night, she dies of what turns out to be poisoning. Now, the hostel manager, Mrs. Hubbard, has to face the fact that one or more students may not be innocent at all. Here’s what she says about it:
 

‘‘…it would distress me very much to think that one of them is – well, not what I’d like to think he or she is.’’
 
And that turns out to be the case. As Poirot works with Inspector Sharpe to find out the truth, we see the tension building as various students’ real selves come out, and the question of who can be trusted comes up.

Michael Crichton’s A Case of Need, which he wrote in 1968 as Jeffery Hudson, features pathologist Dr. John Berry, who works at Boston’s Memorial Hospital. Berry gets drawn into a very difficult case when a friend, Dr. Arthur Lee, is accused of causing the death of a young woman named Karen Randall. It’s alleged that he performed a (then-illegal) abortion on the victim, and the operation went wrong. Lee says that he did not perform the abortion, and he wants Berry to help clear his name. But that’s not going to be easy. The victim’s father is the legendary Dr. J.D. Randall, one of the most powerful people at the hospital. Still, Berry wants to believe his friend, so he starts asking questions. But it’s soon clear that someone doesn’t want him to find answers. Now, he has to work out who can be trusted and who can’t, and that adds to the tension. There’s even the question of whether Lee is telling the truth. All of this builds suspense in the novel as Berry gets closer to finding out what really happened.

A great deal of the tension in Ira Levin’s The Stepford Wives comes from this same question of who can be trusted. Joanna and Walter Eberhart and their children move from New York City to the small town of Stepford, Connecticut. All seems to go well when the Eberharts arrive. The family members settle in and make new friends. Then, Joanna’s friend, Bobbie Markowe, begins to suspect that something is wrong in Stepford. Joanna doesn’t believe her at first; and, in any case, Joanna has no desire to move right away after just having purchased a house. Then, some strange and eerie things begin to happen, and Joanna starts to wonder who, exactly, can be trusted. The tension builds as she tries to make sense of what might be doing on. And soon, she sees that she may not stay alive long enough to find out.

Sinéad Crowley’s Can Anybody Help Me? introduces readers to Yvonne Mulhern, who has just moved from London to Dublin with her husband, Gerry, and their newborn daughter. Yvonne doesn’t really know anyone in Dublin, and she’s not overly fond of Gerry’s family (with some good reason). What’s more, Gerry’s gone a lot, trying to make good in his new job, which means that Yvonne is left with the vast majority of the baby care. Exhausted and overwhelmed, she needs support. When she discovers an online forum called Netmammy, Yvone thinks she’s found that support. It’s a group for new mothers, and the members offer all of the commiseration, advice, and more that Yvonne wanted. Then, one of the members goes ‘off the grid.’ Yvonne contacts the police, but there’s not much they can do with what she’s told them. Not long after that, though, the body of an unknown woman is discovered in an abandoned apartment. Her description is close enough to Yvonne’s description of her missing friend that they could be the same person. Detective Sergeant (DS) Claire Boyle and her team work to find out who the woman is, and whether she was a member of Netmammy. And Yvonne faces the frightening thought that she no longer knows which members are who they say they are, and who in her life is trustworthy.

And then there’s Brad Parks’ Faces of the Gone, in which we meet Newark, New Jersey journalist Carter Ross. He’s a reporter for the Eagle-Examiner who gets his chance at a major story when the bodies of four people are found in an abandoned lot. At first, the police theory is that the owner of a nearby bar hired someone to kill the victims because one of them robbed his bar. The others, so it is claimed, were accomplices. But Ross doesn’t believe that explains everything, and he starts looking more deeply into the matter. He soon finds out that very little is what it seemed, and that some people in high places want this story – and Ross – killed. Part of the tension in the story comes from the fact that Ross doesn’t know who to believe, and who is trustworthy.

It’s a scary feeling, if you think about it, not to know who can be trusted and who can’t, even among people you count as friends. It builds tension in real life, and it does in crime fiction too. So, it’s little wonder we see that trope so often.

 
 
 

*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from Imagine Dragons’ Gold.

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Filed under Agatha Christie, Brad Parks, Ira Levin, Jeffery Hudson, Michael Crichton, Sinéad Crowley

It’s Just Those Ordinary Moments We Adore*

One of the ways authors can amplify tension in their novels is to include simple domestic scenes (e.g. setting the table, folding laundry, etc.). Those very ordinary scenes can serve as a contrast to the tension the author’s building, and make it even stronger. If you’ve ever been through a time of real tension, but still sat down to eat, or washed dishes, you know how that contrast works in real life. It does in crime fiction, too.

Agatha Christie used that contrast in several of her stories. For instance, in And Then There Were None, ten people are invited for a stay on Indian Island, off the Devon coast. They’re all invited for different reasons, and they all have their personal reasons for accepting the invitation. Their host isn’t present when they arrive, but everyone settles in. After dinner on the first night, they’re all shocked when each person is accused of having caused the death of at least one other person. Not long afterwards, one of the guests suddenly dies of what turns out to be poison. Later that night, another guest dies. Now, it’s clear that someone has lured these people to the island, and is killing them. The survivors will have to stay alive if they’re going to find out who the killer is. As you can imagine, a great deal of suspense is built up as the characters suspect each other of being the killer. At one point, a few of them are in the kitchen, getting a meal ready. The preparations are, on the surface, normal enough. And that throws the underlying tension into stark relief. You’re absolutely right, fans of Murder in Mesopotamia.

In Nicholas Blake’s The Beast Must Die, mystery novelist Frank Cairnes decides that he is going to commit murder. Six months earlier, his beloved son Martin ‘Martie’ was killed in a hit-and-run tragedy. Cairnes is devastated, and wants to find the person responsible, and kill that person. He moves back to the town where the tragedy occurred, and starts to ask a few questions. It doesn’t take long before he learns that a man named George Rattery was probably driving the car that killed Martie. He manages to get an ‘in’ to meet Rattery and his wife, and, soon enough, he’s invited to stay with them. Then, he works out his plan. He decides he’ll go sailing with Rattery, and, when they’re out alone on the water, he’ll drown his enemy. But, of course, he’ll have to get Rattery to agree to go sailing. One afternoon at lunch, he brings up the topic. It’s a regular lunch, where everyone’s eating, talking, and so on. But, for Cairnes, it’s an important part of putting his plan in motion. And there’s a lot of tension as that underlying suspense contrasts with the ordinariness of the meal.

Ira Levin’s The Stepford Wives is the story of Walter and Joanna Eberhart. They and their two children have just moved from New York City to the small town of Stepford, Connecticut. They settle in a bit, and at first, everything goes well enough. Then, Joanna’s new friend, Bobbie Markowe, begins to suspect that something is wrong in the town. Joanna doesn’t agree, and she’s unwilling anyway to make a move so soon after having moved to town. But as time goes by, she comes to believe that Bobbie was right, and that something dark is going on. Now, she herself is in very real danger. At one point, Walter invites a few of his friends over to the house, and Joanna agrees to play hostess. There’s a very tense scene in which she’s in the kitchen, and one of the guests joins her there. On the surface, it’s an everyday situation, where someone’s doing something in the kitchen, and chatting with another person. But there’s a lot of underlying tension, as Joanna’s trying to work out what’s going on in Stepford.

There’s another kitchen scene in Megan Abbott’s Die a Little, which takes place in 1950s California. Lora King has always been close to her brother, Bill. So, when he begins to date a former Hollywood seamstress’ assistant named Alice Steele, she’s naturally concerned that he might get hurt. Then, he marries Alice. Lora has her doubts, but she tries to be nice to her new sister-in-law, mostly for Bill’s sake. And Alice does seem to be fitting in among Bill’s friends. In fact, she’s quite the hostess. Slowly, though, Lora begins to learn little things that make her very uneasy. The more she discovers about Alice’s life, the more repulsed she is. At the same time, she’s drawn to it. Then, there’s a death, and Alice might be mixed up in it. Telling herself she’s protecting her brother, Lora starts to ask questions to find out what really happened. At one point in the novel, Alice is preparing for a get-together will some friends, and Lora’s in the kitchen, helping her. It’s a very ordinary-looking scene on the surface. Underneath, though, there’s a great deal of tension as Lora has become convinced that something is badly wrong.

And then there’s Wendy James’ The Mistake. In that novel, we meet Jodie Evans Garrow and her family. Her husband, Angus, is a successful attorney whose name has been brought up as the next mayor of Arding, New South Wales. She’s attractive, smart, and has two healthy children and a comfortable life. Everything’s going well for this family. Then, her daughter, Hannah, is involved in an accident, and is rushed to a Sydney hospital. It turns out to be the same hospital where, several years earlier, Jodie gave birth to another child, one she’s never mentioned to anyone. A nurse at the hospital remembers Jodie, and asks about the child. Jodie says she gave the baby up for adoption, but when the nurse checks into it, she finds no formal record of the adoption. Now, whispers start, and soon turn very ugly and very public. What happened to the baby? If she’s alive, where is she? If she’s dead, did Jodie have something to do with it? Before she knows it, Jodie becomes a social pariah. In the midst of all of this, she is invited to visit a local book club. Pleased at this sign of acceptance, Jodie accepts the invitation, and attends the book club meeting. On the surface, it’s an ordinary book club discussion. But the tension soon rises when Jodie discovers the reason she was invited. The group is discussing a book about the famous Lindy Chamberlain case, and they’ve drawn a parallel to Jodie’s situation. That underlying suspense contrasts with the surface-level peace of the book club.

And that’s the power that those ordinary scenes can have in crime fiction. They can contrast very effectively with underlying tension, and bring that tension into sharp focus. And that can add much to a novel.

 
 
 

*NOTE:  The title of this post is a line from Marc Robillard’s Blown Away.

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Filed under Agatha Christie, Ira Levin, Megan Abbott, Nicholas Blake, Wendy James

Be Careful What You Wish For*

In John Burdett’s Bangkok Tattoo, Royal Thai Police detective Sonchai Jitpleecheep, a dedicated Buddhist, has this to say:
 

‘To the evolved mind of the Gautama Buddha, any desire was an obscene distortion…’
 

And one of the Four Noble Truths of Buddhism is that the cause of all human suffering is desire, in some form or another.

The whole concept of wanting things (or a particular outcome, or…) is seen differently in non-Buddhist cultures. But even so, we’ve all been warned against greed. There’s even the old expression, ‘Be careful what you wish for. You just might get it.’ And there’s something to that. Getting what we think we want may come with all sorts of consequences. Don’t believe me? Just take a quick look at crime fiction, and you’ll see what I mean.

In Agatha Christie’s Cat Among the Pigeons, we are introduced to Honoria Bulstrode, who owns and runs an exclusive girls’ school called Meadowbank. It’s been a great success and has a gilt-edged reputation. In fact, things are going so well that Miss Bulstrode feels that it’s all gotten a bit dull. Some of the spark has gone out of her work, and she’d like to feel passionate about it all again. All thoughts of dullness go away when the new Games Mistress, Grace Springer, is shot late one night in the new Sports Pavilion. Then, there’s a kidnapping. And another murder. Now, parents start removing their daughters from the school, and there’s a real chance that the school might have to close. Hercule Poirot works to find out who or what is behind all that’s going on at the school. He finds that it’s all connected to some valuable gems and a revolution in a faraway place. Miss Bulstrode might have wanted things to be less dull, but she certainly didn’t want the havoc that’s wreaked on her school…

James M. Cain’s Double Indemnity features insurance agent Walter Huff. When he goes to visit one of his clients, H.S. Nirdlinger, he meets the man’s wife, Phyllis, instead. He’s immediately attracted to her, and she does nothing to discourage him. Before long, they’re having an affair. Phyllis tells her lover about a plan she has to kill her husband. She even persuades him to write the double-indemnity policy she needs to benefit from his death the way she wants to benefit. The two plan the murder, which is duly carried out. Now, it really hits Huff that he’s committed a murder because he wanted Phyllis Nirdlinger. As he gets drawn further and further into the web, he learns what can happen when you get what you think you want.

In Ira Levin’s The Stepford Wives, we meet Walter and Joanna Eberhart. They’ve just moved from New York City to the small town of Stepford, Connecticut. Their goal was a nice home in an affordable place with low taxes and good schools. And they think they’ve found it. In fact, Stepford seems to be an ideal place. Then, Joanna’s new friend Bobbie Markowe starts to suspect that something might be very wrong with Stepford. At first, Joanna doesn’t believe it. Everything Bobbie mentions seems to have a logical explanation. Besides, Joanna doesn’t want to move again so soon after moving to Stepford. Then, other things begin to happen, and Joanna learns that what she thought she wanted has turned out very differently.

Paddy Richardson’s Traces of Red features Wellington journalist Rebecca Thorne. She’s been doing very well, but she knows that there are younger, hungry journalists right behind her. What she would really like is the story that could cement her position at the top of New Zealand journalism. And she gets that chance when she hears about the case of Connor Bligh. He’s been in prison for years for the murders of his sister, Angela Dickson, her husband, Rowan, and their son, Sam. Only their daughter, Katy, survived, because she wasn’t at home at the time of the killings. There are little hints now that Bligh might not have committed the crimes. If he is innocent, then this could be the story Thorne’s been wanting. She starts to ask questions, and soon finds herself getting much closer to everything than she should. And she discovers that getting that perfect story isn’t all it may seem on the surface.

And then there’s Jock Serong’s The Rules of Backyard Cricket. Wally and Darren Keefe are both cricket-mad. As children, they play it in the backyard of their Melbourne home, and both of them want to be famous cricketers. Their mother wants that for them, too. It’s not out of the question, either, because both are quite talented. As time goes on, their talent is honed, and they both get what they want: cricket stardom. They have very different personalities, though, and that impacts what happens to them. Wally is the disciplined one. He works very hard and is driven to be the best. Darren has rare talent – the once-in-a-generation kind – but is more impulsive and less disciplined. When he’s at his best, he is superb. But he doesn’t have his brother’s focus. And these differences play an important role in both lives as the two brothers learn the hard way that what they thought they wanted isn’t at all what they imagined. It all leads to real tragedy.

And that’s the thing about getting what you think you want. Sometimes, it works out really well. Other times…it doesn’t. And that can have all sorts of consequences.

 
 
 

*NOTE: The title of this post is a song by Doug Adair.

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Filed under Agatha Christie, Ira Levin, James M. Cain, Jock Serong, John Burdett, Paddy Richardson

The Game We Call Gaslighting*

It’s interesting how words become a part of our language. Take George Cukor’s 1947 film Gaslight. As you’ll know, the focus is a young woman who travels to Italy, falls in love, and marries. When she and her new husband return to England, she begins to notice strange things happening. As she slowly starts to question her own sanity, another, bigger question arises: what are her husband’s motives?

The film gave us the word ‘gaslight,’ which has come to mean ‘to manipulate someone into questioning her or his own sanity.’ ‘Gaslighting’ has been a part of crime fiction for a long time, and it certainly can add a lot to a story. On one level, there’s a lot of tension as a fictional character begins to wonder: ‘Am I crazy?’ On another level, there’s tension as readers wonder (and, later, learn) who is pulling the proverbial strings. There are a lot of examples of this plot point in the genre. Here are a few.

Agatha Christie used this plot point in several of her stories. For instance, in Third Girl, a young woman comes to visit Hercule Poirot. She tells him that she believes she may have committed a murder. Then, she abruptly leaves without giving her name (she says he’s ‘too old!’). Poirot learns from his friend, detective story writer Ariadne Oliver, that the young woman is Norma Restarick. With that information, Poirot and Mrs. Oliver start to look into the matter. Did Norma really commit a murder? If so, who is the victim? Then, Norma goes missing. Now, the possible murder case is even more complex. And it’s very interesting to see how ‘gaslighting’ works in this novel.

Ethel Lina White’s The Wheel Spins begins as socialite Iris Carr prepares to travel back to London after a Continental holiday. She’s waiting for the train she needs, when she suffers what is likely heat stroke and blacks out. She recovers just in time to catch the train, and rushes aboard. She finds a spot in one of the coaches and settles in, but it’s soon apparent that she’s not welcome there. Still, she tries to rest a little. As the journey gets underway, Iris makes the acquaintance of an English governess, Winifred Froy. The two start talking and continue their conversation over tea that afternoon. Then, Iris returns to the compartment and falls asleep. When she wakes, Miss Froy is missing. Iris looks for her everywhere, but no-one can help her. In fact, the people in her compartment insist that there is no such person. As time goes by, Iris gets more and more concerned about Miss Froy, but no-one else seems to be able to help. Is there a Miss Froy? Is Iris mentally ill? If there is a Miss Froy, what’s happened to her? Those questions add to the tension in the story.

Ellery Queen’s Ten Days Wonder features Howard Van Horn. One morning, he wakes from what seems to be a blackout. He’s got blood on him – not his own – and is terrified he’s done something awful. He visits his old college friend, Ellery Queen, to ask for help, and Queen agrees to do what he can. As Queen and Van Horn try to unravel the mystery, they return to Van Horn’s home town of Wrightsville, where they stay with Van Horn’s father, Dietrich, and stepmother, Sally. When Sally Van Horn is murdered, all of the evidence seems to point to Howard as the guilty party. Even he believes he must have killed her during a blackout. Did he? Has someone been manipulating him? It’s a difficult puzzle, and I can say without spoiling the story that it takes a terrible toll.

In Ira Levin’s The Stepford Wives, Walter and Joanna Eberhart, and their two children, leave their home in New York City, and move to the small town of Stepford, Connecticut. At first, everything goes smoothly. The family settles in, and the children get accustomed to their new school and new friends. Then, Joanna’s friend, Bobbie Markowe, starts to suspect that something is very wrong in Stepford. At first, Joanna doesn’t believe her. But then, some things begin to happen that make Joanna wonder. As time goes by, she becomes less and less sure of the truth. Is she right about the danger? Is she losing her mind? That tension, as Joanna starts to question her own sanity, makes for some very suspenseful scenes in the novel.

The real action in Jane Haddam’s Not a Creature Was Stirring begins as former Philadelphia-based FBI agent Gregor Demarkian gets a note from his local parish priest, Father Tibor. It seems that Father Tibor has an odd request. A very wealthy railroad tycoon, Robert Hannaford, wants Demarkian to have Christmas Eve dinner with the Hannaford family. He won’t say why, or what he wants. But it’s worth a donation of US$100,000 to the church to him. Demarkian is happy to help the church if he can. And he is curious about what Hannford would want. So, he goes to the house as requested. By the time he gets there, though, it’s too late: Hannaford’s been murdered. Demarkian works with local police detective John Jackman to find out who the killer is. And, as it turns out, there are plenty of possibilities. In the end, Demarkian finds out who the killer is and what the motive is. He also finds out the reason Hannaford wanted him to visit: It seems that he
 

‘‘…complained about someone coming into his study and moving things, trying to make him think he was going senile.’’
 

That bit of ‘gaslighting’ plays an important role in the novel.

It’s not easy to make this plot point credible. After all, why would an intelligent person who’s not gullible start to question her or his own sanity? But when it’s done well, ‘gaslighting’ can add real suspense to a story.

 
 
 

*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from Steely Dan’s Gaslighting Abbie.

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Filed under Agatha Christie, Ellery Queen, Ethel Lina White, Ira Levin, Jane Haddam

My Mama Once Told Me of a Place With Waterfalls and Unicorns Flying*

It’s interesting how legends, if that’s what you want to call them, are built up around certain places. The reality seldom lives up to the promise of the legend, and most people know that intellectually. But the allure is often still there. So, people ‘buy into’ those legends. That’s why people can be sold on timeshares, ‘that perfect little place,’ and so on.

In crime fiction, those legends can add an interesting layer of tension as characters discover the truth behind the legend. And there are possibilities for character development, too. And that atmosphere, where reality and legend clash, can make for a solid background to a story.

For example, in Agatha Christie’s Death in the Clouds (AKA Death in the Air), we are introduced to London hairdresser’s assistant Jane Grey. When she wins a sweepstakes, she decides to use the money to take a trip to Le Pinet, which she’s heard about from clients. Jane’s neither gullible nor unintelligent, but the place does have a mystique about it. She finds, though, that Le Pinet isn’t anything as magical as the legends suggest. And on the flight back to London, she gets mixed up in a case of murder. One of the fellow passengers, a Parisian moneylender who went by the name of Madame Giselle, is poisoned. Hercule Poirot is on the same flight (and, incidentally, quite suspicious as far as the coroner’s jury is concerned!). He works with Chief Inspector Japp to find out who would have wanted the victim dead. I agree with you, fans of The Mystery of the Blue Train.

There are all sorts of legends built up around the ‘perfect suburban place, with white picket fence.’ And we see that in a lot of crime fiction. For instance, in Ira Levin’s The Stepford Wives, Walter and Joanna Eberhart decide to move from New York City to the small Connecticut town of Stepford. The story is that it’s a lovely town with low taxes and good schools, and they want to be part of that dream, so to speak. They and their two children settle in, and all promises to go well. But soon, Joanna’s new friend Bobbie Markowe begins to suspect that something is wrong with Stepford. Joanna doesn’t believe her at first, but soon some strange and frightening things show all too clearly that Bobbie was right. Some very dark things are going on in the town…

Linwood Barclay’s Bad Move introduces readers to sci-fi novelist Zack Walker and his journalist wife, Sarah. He’s been concerned for some time about the safety of the city where he and his family live. Convinced by the legends of idyllic suburban life, Walker wants to move his family to a new development called Valley Forest Estates. Soon after they arrive, though, it becomes clear that this isn’t the ‘perfect suburban community’ Walker had thought it was. For one thing, the new house needs several repairs. Walker soon discovers, too, that all is not as it seems in this community. Matters come to a head one day when he discovers the body of a local environmentalist in a nearby creek. The more Walker tries to keep himself and his family safe, the more danger he seems to find. The ‘white picket fence’ suburban dream turns out to be nothing like the sales brochures…

Virginia Duigan’s The Precipice takes place mostly in the Blue Mountains of New South Wales. Former school principal Thea Farmer has bought land there, and had a custom-made house built. For her, this is going to be the perfect home in the perfect place. It’s something she’s dreamed of doing. Then, bad luck and poor financial decision-making mean she has to settle for the house next door – a house she refers to as ‘the hovel.’ Worse, Frank Campbell and Ellice Carrington buy the home Thea still thinks of as hers. As if that weren’t enough, Frank’s niece, Kim, moves in with him and Ellice. Now, Thea has to cope with the loss of her beautiful home as well as the fact that ‘invaders’ have taken it over. Unexpectedly, though, she forms an awkward sort of friendship with Kim, and sees promise in her. That’s why it’s so upsetting for Thea when she comes to believe that Frank and Ellice are not providing an appropriate home for the girl. When the police won’t do anything about it (they really can’t without clear evidence), Thea decides to take her own measures…

In Sue Younger’s Days Are Like Grass, pediatric surgeon Claire Bowerman, her fifteen-year-old daughter, Roimata ‘Roi,’ and her partner, Yossi Shalev, move from London to Claire’s native Auckland. For Yossi, New Zealand is an almost ideal setting. He wants to live as far away as possible from the war and conflict he knew in Israel. And he’s excited to start over in what, to him, seems like the perfect place. Roi is happy about the move, too. Her mother has said very little about her background (and Roi’s), and Roi is curious to learn more. But Claire is not at all eager for the move, she had good reasons for leaving New Zealand in the first place. Her father, Patrick, was arrested and tried for the 1970 murder of seventeen-year-old Kathryn Phillips. Although there was never enough evidence to keep him in prison, plenty of people think he was guilty. Claire doesn’t want to go back to those memories. But, for Yossi’s sake, she goes along with the plan. Everything works well enough at first. Then, one of her patients, two-year-old Rory Peteru, is diagnosed with a tumour on his kidney. Claire wants to plan an operation to remove the growth, but Rory’s parents refuse on religious grounds. The conflict between them gets media attention and before long, Claire’s in the public spotlight. And that’s when some journalists bring up the Kathryn Phillips murder. Now, Claire will have to fight to keep her family safe from the media blitz, and try to do the best she can for her patient.

And that’s the thing about ‘buying into’ stories about perfect places and lifestyles. In real life, and in crime fiction, the reality can be quite different from the ideal. And that can lead in all sorts of dangerous directions.

 
 
 

*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from Trey Parker, Robert Lopez and Matt Stone’s Sal Tlay Ka Siti.

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Filed under Agatha Christie, Ira Levin, Linwood Barclay, Sue Younger, Virginia Duigan